Best Footballers of All Time
The challenge of picking the best football player in the world is not an easy one since there are so many worthy candidates.
Every football fan has a list of their favourites, and the debate is always, "Who is the best?" Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, who is better? To put a stop to all the disputes and fan battles, we've compiled a list of the best players based on data and performances.
1. Messi Lionel:
Lionel Messi is still the finest player on the planet, even at the age of 33. After 18 seasons as a professional soccer's greatest playmaker continues to wow. In 2021, he's only done one thing: shown that his magnificence is far from over. Messi was not the issue for Barcelona's failure to win La Liga in 2020-21.
Messi dominated La Liga this season with 30 goals and nine assists in 35 appearances. In all, he scored 38 goals in 47 games for Barcelona, putting him back in contention for the Ballon d'Or. He's received the award six times in a row, which is a record. Messi has 743 goals for club and country and is the all-time leader in goals (474), assists (192), and points (192). Six times he has won the European Golden Shoe, twice the UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award, and 12 times he has been named to the UEFA Team of the Year. Barcelona has won 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League titles in his 17 years with the club.
With great balance, leverage, and a low centre of gravity, the Argentinian striker exploits his tiny frame (5-foot-7) to his advantage. All of this adds up to an unprecedented amount of ball control. His brief bursts of speed and quickness are unmatched by anybody in the game, and he possesses the finest vision of anyone who has ever played it. He understands how to dismantle opponents and spot holes and passageways that no one else notices. In the offensive, he can play everywhere on the pitch, and his speed and ingenuity enable him to create scoring chances from anywhere. He's a fantastic finisher, but what sets him unique is his ability to set people up for success.
Lionel Messi will always be the best player in the world. He's the best player of all time, and he's still at the top of the heap in his 18th professional season. We're not there yet, but he'll eventually tumble down this list.
2. Mohamed Salah:
In terms of pure form, Salah is without a doubt the finest player in the world right now, but we're attempting to account for a multitude of aspects. Salah's direct running may be considered unsophisticated by soccer purists, but his influence is undeniable. Few players can pick up the ball out wide and drive it fast across - or into - the area.
He is the talisman, icon, and Egyptian king of Liverpool. He may have reached his peak later in his career than many other superstars, but he will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest Premier League players ever.
3. Karim Benzema:
Benzema has made a triumphant return to the list after almost two decades away, continuing to enjoy an Indian summer. Real Madrid has passed on the talisman in previous years in favour of Galactico-style big-money stars, but they always come back to the trusty Frenchman in 2021/22, who is enjoying one of the greatest seasons of his career.
He didn't make the list because of his 17 goals in 21 La Liga games this season, but he had three consecutive 20-goal seasons before that, as well as a slew of assists, demonstrating his work ethic, compassion, and impact on Madrid's success.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo:
Despite rumours that he may leave Italy this summer, the 36-year-old has maintained his outstanding form over his three years with the club. Ronaldo topped Serie A with 29 goals in 33 games this season. In his three seasons at Juventus, he scored 81 goals in 97 league appearances and 101 in 133 total matches.
He has 674 goals in 896 club appearances, the most goals (134) and assists (42) in the Champions League, and has received the Ballon d'Or five times. He has 777 goals for club and country in his career, making him just the second male player to do so (Ali Daei of Iran is the other). In all, he has been chosen to the UEFA Team of the Year 15 times. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest soccer players ever.
What Ronaldo does on the field is well-known. He's a versatile attacker, and while his ability as a pure playmaker has waned as he's gotten older, he's still as dangerous with the ball at his feet as anyone in the world. At 6-foot-1, he's a force on the court and still looks great. Because of his superior vision, he's always been an underrated passer. It's how he's amassed 224 assists throughout his career. He isn't as quick as he once was, but he can still cut through defences and find gaps. He's a natural finisher, both with his feet and with his head, and he rarely loses his cool in traffic. He also appears to enjoy taking on players more these days than when he was younger.
Neymar had a poor season just when it looked like he was finally putting his extraordinary ball abilities to good use and contributing to a team. PSG as a whole had a disappointing season, with Lille winning the Ligue 1 championship. Neymar only appeared in 17 league games and scored nine goals, but his otherworldly ability earns him a spot on our list since he has the potential to be the most exciting player on the planet at any time.
Neymar, maybe the most overhyped young athlete in history, has generally lived up to his reputation as a game-changer. Yes, he has a reputation for sliding a lot when tackled and has had injury issues, but he has a level of skill that few players have ever matched. The 28-year-old shooter and winger is a force to be reckoned with when the ball is at his feet. His dribbling ability is still unrivalled across the globe, and he continues to be a prolific goal scorer. He has 55 goals in 68 league games for PSG, after scoring 68 in 123 games for Barcelona. In 103 appearances for Brazil, he has also scored 64 goals.
In 2020, Neymar led PSG to a runner-up finish in the Champions League, as well as 10 domestic titles in four seasons. Three Ligue 1 championships are among them. In 2015, he was voted La Liga's Best World Player, in 2018, he was crowned Ligue 1 Player of the Year, and in 2015 and 2020, he was chosen to the UEFA Team of the Year. In his own nation, he also won the Bronze Boot in the 2014 World Cup.
After falling short of its Ligue 1 and Champions League ambitions this season, PSG will be driven to establish itself next year. Neymar will play a key role in that effort.
6. Robert Lewandowski:
Without a doubt, Lewandowski is the most in-form player on the planet right now. He's been like that for a long time. In his chaotic career, he has yet to win a Ballon d'Or, which seems like a tragedy. The Polish superstar has a well-balanced combination of speed, strength, and technical ability, as well as excellent athletic movement.
He's always being on target with his positioning in one-on-one situations, and there's no one you'd sooner trust. We understand that statistics are not everything, but we'll leave you with some interesting Lewandowski figures to ponder on. He has 328 goals in 357 appearances for Bayern Munich in all competitions, including 41 Bundesliga goals in only 29 games last season. This season, he's also averaging more than a goal per game.
7. Kevin De Bruyne:
In terms of skill set, technical ability, physical qualities, and mental tenacity, De Bruyne is perhaps the most complete player in the world today. He's the best football crosser in Premier League history, with some of the strangest passes you'll ever see. He has the ability to not only score goals but also to remove nets from their stanchions. All of this is fine, but De Bruyne's surprising pace and physicality put him apart from a group of similar players.
The Belgian is much stronger than you may think, and he can move the ball quickly at full speed. He has everything.
8. Joshua Kimmich:
Joshua Kimmich, the individual who will lead Bayern Munich into the next age, has ascended to the top of our list thanks to his remarkable performance over the last few years. Kimmich is a muscular, defensive-minded right-back who is widely considered one of the greatest in the world, but his transfer to midfield under manager Hansi Flick has elevated his game even more. He is presently recognised as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
The 25-year-old is an excellent passer, is very clever, and is one of the finest tacklers in the world, but he can also attack and deliver perfect crosses. He's a tough, gritty player who fits the mould of the kind of player Bayern will need to wear the armband in the future.
During his brief professional career, Kimmich has amassed an impressive collection of individual and team awards. He has aided Bayern in winning six Bundesliga titles in a row and a UEFA Champions League victory in 2020. He has been chosen to four consecutive Bundesliga Teams of the Season, as well as the Champions League Defender of the Season in 2020 and the Champions League Squad of the Season in both 2017-18 and 2019-20.
9. Sadio Mane:
Sadio Mane, more than anyone else, has played a key role in Liverpool's revival as a consistent Premier League and Champions League contender. Mane has 74 Premier League goals in 162 games and 97 in 218 appearances over his five seasons at Anfield. He's been a nightmare for opposition teams and has always been the catalyst for the Reds' attack.
Mane, a 28-year-old winger with great pace and finishing ability, dazzles with his ball-handling abilities. He's also a very smart player, with excellent positioning, awareness, and decision-making skills. During Liverpool's amazing run to the Premier League championship in 2020, Mane scored 18 goals and made seven assists, while also giving a boost in vital times like his stoppage-time winner against Aston Villa. Mane stands out from the crowd when he has moments like those.
Mane led Liverpool to its first Premier League victory in 30 years in 2020, as well as two Champions League finals, one of which he won in 2019 and the other in 2018. With 22 goals in 2019, he earned the Premier League Golden Boot and has been selected to the PFA Team of the Year three times, the UEFA Team of the Year in 2019, and the Champions League Squad of the Season for 2018-19.
10. Kylian Mbappe:
Kylian Mbappe is a great striker who keeps getting better. In fact, if he keeps up his present form, the 22-year-old has a realistic chance of winning the Ballon d'Or in 2021. Mbappe made his name in soccer by scoring four goals to help France win the World Cup in 2018. He's lived up to the buzz surrounding his performance in Russia since then. In the 2020-21 season, Mbappe dominated Ligue 1, scoring 27 goals in 31 games for Paris Saint-Germain. He won his second straight Ligue 1 Player of the Year award with 42 goals in 47 appearances (2019 and 2021, it was not awarded in 2020).
He has been chosen to four consecutive Ligue 1 Teams of the Year, as well as the Champions League Squads of the Season in 2017 and 2020. PSG has won 10 trophies in Mbappe's four seasons in Paris, including three Ligue 1 titles.
He's a traditional forward with lightning quickness, dribbling prowess, general ball-handling skills, and perfect timing on his runs. He may be the world's quickest player, which, paired with his ball abilities, makes him very dangerous every time he steps onto the field. On the ball, he's inventive and stronger than his 5-foot-10 stature suggests. He had some shortcomings in 2020, like his poor performance in the Champions League Final, but he seemed to get back on track in 2021.
11. Trent Alexander-Arnold:
It's tough to create clear distinctions between defenders, midfielders, and strikers, but Alexander Arnold has the ability to play in all three positions. He can scythe down the line and make fantastic crosses on command when the turbochargers are turned on, and he understands when to drift back and forth in the middle of the field in and out of possession. Alexander-Arnold is the finest full-back on the planet, and his continuous effect on games has been crucial to Liverpool's recent success. What's the greatest part? He's just 23.
12. Harry Kane:
Despite his problems in 2021/22, Harry Kane is simply one of the best strikers in the world and well deserves his spot at the top of the worldwide quality chart. Kane has scored at least 20 goals in every season for Tottenham in which he has appeared in at least 30 Premier League games. Despite being severely hampered by injury in prior seasons, he still managed to put up impressive statistics. The England talisman, though, is more than just numbers. His passing range, technique, vision, and ability to create plays set him apart from nearly any other striker on the planet. He is a fantastic athlete who is deserving of awards in his locker.
13. Virgil Van Dijk:
Right now, Virgil Van Dijk is the world's top centre defender by far. In spite of Manchester City's Ruben Dias's victory in the FWA Footballer of Year Award, Van Dijk remains a valuable player in the Premier League. The Dutchman has been a major part of Liverpool's resurgence in top division play, alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
This 29-year-old defender has been a rock for Liverpool since he joined in 2018. He's lightning fast, a technical marvel, a ball placement maestro, and one of the best ball challengers on the planet. When it comes to tackling and timing, no one beats him. He also participates in the attack more often than other centre defenders. He has 13 goals in four Premier League seasons and excels at set-pieces. Unfortunately, after an ACL surgery in October, he only made five league games in 2020-21.
Van Dijk helped Liverpool win the Premier League in 2020, finish second in the Champions League in 2018, and win the Champions League in 2019. PFA Player of the Year, Premier League Player of Season, UEFA Defender of Year, and UEFA Men's Player of the Year were all given to him in 2019. PFA Team of Year in 2019, and Champions League Team of Season in 2018, 2019, and 2020 for him respectively. He also ranked second behind Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d'Or vote.